Premixed H2/O2/N2 flames propagating in two-dimensional turbulence have been studied using direct numerical simulations (DNS: simulations in which all fluid and thermochemical scales are fully resolved). Simulations include realistic chemical kinetics and molecular transport over a range of equivalence ratios Φ (Φ = 0.35, 0.5, 0.7, 1.0, 1.3). The validity of the flamelet assumption for premixed turbulent flames is checked by comparing DNS data and results obtained for steady strained premixed flames with the same chemistry (flamelet ‘library’). This comparison shows that flamelet libraries overestimate the influence of stretch on flame structure. Results are also compared with earlier zero-chemistry (flame sheet) and one-step chemistry simulations. Consistent with the simpler models, the turbulent flame with realistic chemistry aligns preferentially with extensive strain rates in the tangent plane and flame curvature probability density functions are close to symmetric with near-zero means. For very lean flames it is also found that the local flame structure correlates with curvature as predicted by DNS based on simple chemistry. However, for richer flames, by contrast to simple-chemistry results with non-unity Lewis numbers (ratio of thermal to species diffusivity), local flame structure does not correlate with curvature but rather with tangential strain rate. Turbulent straining results in substantial thinning of the flame relative to the steady unstrained laminar case. Heat-release and H2O2 contours remain thin and connected (‘flamelet-like’) while species including H-atom and OH are more diffuse. Peak OH concentration occurs well behind the peak heat-release zone when the flame temperature is high (of the order of 2800 K). For cooler and leaner flames (about 1600 K and for an equivalence ratio below 0.5) the OH radical is concentrated near the reaction zone and the maximum OH level provides an estimate of the local flamelet speed as assumed by Becker et al. (1990).